Shifting the Paradigm: Concerts in the age of COVID-19?
May 4, 2020 In: Sound Bits
This past week, Zach Finkelstein published an interesting article detailing what a socially-distanced concert hall might look like, physically and financially, in the age of COVID-19. While reading the article (and frantically mapping my college’s concert halls in my mind), I came across a link to a video of a recent performance by the Czech Philharmonic.
The Czech Philharmonic, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, hosted a virtual benefit concert on Saturday, April 25th 2020. Under the direction of Jakub Hrůša, the Philharmonic members were joined by the Baroque ensemble, Collegium 1704, for performances of chamber music by Bruckner, Bach, Hassler, Vivaldi, Dvořák, Saint-Saens, Mendelssohn, and Janáček. The concert was a fundraiser to support the elderly currently being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. To date, the concert has raised over $35,000 for the cause.
The video is as visually stunning as it is shocking. A harsh new reality superimposed on a traditional concert venue. Strings and conductor socially distanced on stage. Brass separated and placed in the balcony. Black masks covering the faces of all performers and the bells of all wind instruments. A concert hall with no audience. Somber and silent transitions between each selection on the program. Repertoire and programming shaped by social distancing. After struggling to wear a mask during my bi-weekly trip to the grocery store, the ability of the performers, donning their new concert attire, to share their music in such a compelling and nuanced manner is quite remarkable.
Might this be the new model for concerts in the age of COVID-19? Is there a scenario where virtual concerts—in the short term—can financially sustain an arts organization? Interestingly, the benefit concert has been viewed over 270,000 times on facebook, more than 245 times the capacity of Dvořák hall where the concert was recorded. Does a strictly virtual performance format—even if only temporary—have the potential transform the relationship between cultural organizations and the communities they serve? How is your ensemble planning to share their art in the age of COVID-19?
Watch the complete concert HERE.